Top Five Classic Summer Blockbusters
Believe it or not, there was a time when summer was actually a lull for the movie industry. After all, who wants to spend their bright sunny summer inside a dark auditorium? But then a little film known as Jaws came out. It was high-concept. It had high energy. It carried enough mass appeal to spark itself a life outside of the theater and establish itself as a part of our cultural zeitgeist. It was the birth of the summer blockbuster - a genre of film that has become a cherished yearly tradition. With the warm months upon us, Open Air Cinema invites you revisit our Top 5 Classic Summer Blockbusters and relive some of those big cinematic experiences in a new context, under the majesty of the starry night sky.
The Dark Knight
(Christopher Nolan, 2008)Morose? Yes. Heavy? Yes. Yet in spite of its noirish look and its Wagnerian tone, the second act of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy utterly captivated audiences and remains a classic to this day. Much of the film's success can be traced to its gritty tone and its heavy action sequences, which are comparatively more grounded in reality than the average blockbuster fare. But, ultimately, it is Heath Ledger' beguiling turn as the Joker which still has fans taking about this movie nearly a decade after its release.
(Roland Emmerich, 1996)A lot of movies about the prospect of alien invasion feature high-octane explosions and big destruction. Few have dared to do something as drastic as blow up the White House. 1996's Independence Day sets the stakes high with a breed of invader who sees human life and human achievements with the casual disdain we humans reserve for ants and anthills. Director Roland Emmerich mercilessly drives that point home with scene after scene of all-encompassing inferno . But those high stakes add up to high triumphs at the end when the survivors band together and take down the mothership once and for all.
(Michael Bay, 1998)You can't have a list of summer movies without featuring something directed by Michael Bay. And Armageddon is arguably the crown jewel in Mr. Bay's oeuvre. Star-studded ensemble cast? Check. Big stakes - how about an asteroid the size of Texas guaranteed to turn earth into one giant snowglobe of nuclear winter? Huge explosions? They destroy an entire space station - in space, no less. As far as movies go, Armageddon is no Citizen Kane. But, it is the Citizen Kane of summer blockbusters - an exemplar of its genre so complete that it's been entered into the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Steven Spielberg, 1981)
You can't have a list of summer movies without featuring something directed by Steven Spielberg, either. And while there are plenty of Spielberg movies to choose from, Raiders of the Lost Ark remains an enduring favorite for many reasons. First and foremost is Harrison Ford's impossibly charming performance as Indiana Jones, the cavalier archaeology professor who is both a favorite of the coeds and the bane of the Nazis. But don't think that Raiders hinges solely on Indy's charisma; the film's biblical scope, complex action sequences, and pulpy allure all combine to make this the film that launched one of cinema's most beloved franchises.
(Jon Favreau, 2008)Iron Man should not have been a blockbuster by any means; it was Marvel's first solo foray into film production, and it was being spent on a character which many felt to be second-tier at best. Iron Man was no Spiderman or Wolverine. Yet, in spite of all these factors, Iron Man became an overnight success and set the precedent for Marvel as a producer of big movies. The film's success is often credited to Robert Downey Jr.'s hilarious performance as the complex Tony Stark. But not enough credit goes to director Jon Favreau who treated the film with an easy playfulness that many superhero movies of the day severely lacked. It's basically the polar opposite of The Dark Knight - as it turns out, that can still make for some compelling action.
(Steven Spielberg, 1993)No list of blockbusters is complete without mentioning Jurassic Park. It's entertaining from start to finish. It lives up to every aspect of its scope. It's more than 20 years old and its special effects still look great. Its subject matter is a continuing source of wonder - what's more compelling than dinosaurs? And that first confrontation with the T. rex still puts viewers on the edges of their seats, even after all this time. As does the scene with the Dilophosaurus. And all the parts with the raptors. Like we said, it's pretty top-notch the whole way through. Any one of these movies would make for the perfect outdoor blockbuster. Or, if you can't choose, do a whole series. Our inflatable movie screens are durable enough and easy enough to use that you could easily re-experience all of these films in a marathon of big budget movies in the backyard. After all, the only way you could make these film experiences any bigger is through the magic of outdoor cinema.